Michael Breach, better known as BaristArt, calls himself "The OG Coffee Artist." Breach and his latte art have appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, the Food Network and more. His more than 99K Instagram followers elevate him to coffee celebrity as he depicts more traditional stars (Keanu Reeves and Brad Paisley, to name a couple) in foam. We talked to Breach about inventing his own career and branching into big events. By the end of this interview, you’ll be craving a latte with your face on it.
The Vendry: There aren’t a lot of professional coffee artists out there. What was it like to branch out on your own?
Breach: Inventing my own career at first was a mix of excitement and risk. There was no such thing as a coffee artist and it wasn’t exactly a safe career path. It took a lot of self belief and faith in what I was doing to really keep pushing. I got a lot of encouragement from doing events because I saw how people reacted to my art and how much it meant to take something fleeting and make it something to remember.
"There was no such thing as a coffee artist and it wasn’t exactly a safe career path. It took a lot of self belief and faith in what I was doing to really keep pushing."
The Vendry: So how’d it happen? How’d you make the leap?
Breach: The funny thing is I was thrown into it in a way. Not all of my employers embraced my artwork. It actually became difficult for me to be able to keep a regular job [at a coffee shop] and I was even fired once because they said what I was doing brought too much attention to the cafe. Apparently, people drove for an hour to find me. When I started doing larger events, my life changed overnight. One day I had a regular job, and then all of a sudden this brand in Australia flew me out and I landed, and the first thing I did was go on their TV and then go to these parks and do these appearances and events and things like that, so it happened really quickly.
The Vendry: Wow, that is really jumping in!
Breach: When I came back, I didn’t have a job anymore but people emailed me about opportunities so I started getting jobs doing my art more regularly. I never had to go back to having a 9 to 5 job. I guess that's when I started doing trade shows. Those were my first bigger shows where it wasn't intimate and small parties. I sort of fell in love with doing trade shows and conferences.
There will be a conference for a couple of days, and for that couple of days the event is your world. You're there, and there are different parties going on, and events within the event. Some of my best times at gigs were during trade shows because they hire big bands to play and everybody can see them.
"My favorite subjects to portray are the ones that mean something to whoever I am making it for."
Breach: I take a lot of my inspiration from trending pop culture and iconic people and characters — or if I can come up with a punny coffee-related caption! (i.e. “Leonardo Dicappuccino”). A lot of times it can just be a cool image I see somewhere. I’m always thinking about potential ideas! My favorite subjects to portray are the ones that mean something to whoever I am making it for. Many times when I am at events, especially conferences and trade shows, I end up making images of attendees' pets or loved ones at home, giving them something to bring back to share.
I've worked with so many different event planners and I’ve incorporated their ideas with mine in order to offer a package deal when clients bring me on. I started bringing backgrounds and props so guests can stage photos of the coffee cup because conference and convention centers don’t always have the best lighting. I’ve done weddings where I bring a lightbox to stage photos in case the venue is dark.
The Vendry: You managed to find a way to make a living pursuing your passion. What advice would you give to other creatives who want to do that too?
Breach: For me, it was finding the right audience and actually understanding that there is a whole market out there for people doing creative work — however random it may seem. I’m friends with guys who make art with pancakes. I know a girl that makes Etch-A-Sketch art. There are so many nontraditional career pathways that one can take, and thanks to events and social media — people actually have a platform to share things that are ephemeral. We have a way to preserve this work now.
The Vendry: What are you most looking forward to about the future of your artwork?
Breach: I look forward to waking up every day and seeing what pops into my inbox. The equipment doesn't really change and the technique doesn't really change. With me, every single event that I do, I get better at what I do because I do so many of these.
When I worked as a barista, I always loved to have funny banter with customers and I enjoy taking that aspect of the job with me as an artist. At first it was challenging as I had to really concentrate a lot on the art and keep my focus on what my hands were doing, but over the last six years, I’ve created over 10,000 pieces so I can literally have full blown discussions while creating the art. Maybe one day I’ll be able to juggle flaming torches at the same time. Who knows!